Elder abuse is increasingly acknowledged to be a health and social problem that must be addressed. Unfortunately, few recent studies provide a measure of the scope of the problem in Canada. The only Canada-wide study reports that 4% of seniors are victims of elder abuse in any given year. However, the actual proportion is probably higher, considering that such abuse is often misunderstood and under-reported.
It is important that the clinical community play a role in combatting this serious problem. On account of their frequent contact with seniors, frontline health professionals are well-placed to detect cases of elder abuse. However, not all of them are adequately equipped to meet the challenge of recognizing the many different forms of this type of abuse.
This summary is intended in particular for managers and decision makers in the health and social services network. It suggests possible courses of action for promoting early detection of elder abuse by health and social services professionals who work with older adults living at home.
- Health and social services professionals have an essential role to play in detecting elder abuse.
- The strategy most likely to improve professional detection practices is based on three complementary measures:
- Prudent use of available detection tools;
- Making training available for professionals;
- Creating favourable organizational conditions.